וַיִּתְחַתֵּן שְׁלֹמֹה אֶת־פַּרְעֹה מֶלֶךְ מִצְרָיִם וַיִּקַּח אֶת־בַּת־פַּרְעֹה וַיְבִיאֶהָ אֶל־עִיר דָּוִד עַד כַּלֹּתוֹ לִבְנוֹת 3:1 אֶת־בֵּיתוֹ וְאֶת־בֵּית יְהוָה וְאֶת־חוֹמַת יְרוּשָׁלִַם סָבִיב׃
1Kin. 3:1 And Solomon made Pharoah, king of Egypt, a father-in-law when he took the daughter of Pharoah. And he brought her to the city of David until his completion of building his house and the house of the Lord and the wall of Jerusalem all around.
We cannot know when Solomon married Pharoah’s daughter. The language of the verse makes it appear to be a summary of events in Solomon’s future as far as the timing of the previous chapter is concerned. There’s more to say about this; see end of chapter.
רַק הָעָם מְזַבְּחִים בַּבָּמוֹת כִּי לֹא־נִבְנָה בַיִת לְשֵׁם יְהוָה עַד הַיָּמִים הָהֵם׃ 3:2
1Kin. 3:2 The people had yet been sacrificing in the high places, because the house for the name of the Lord had not been built up to those days.
This verse makes it sound as if this chapter, and perhaps the book, was written some time after the temple had been built.
וַיֶּאֱהַב שְׁלֹמֹה אֶת־יְהוָה לָלֶכֶת בְּחֻקּוֹת דָּוִד אָבִיו רַק בַּבָּמוֹת הוּא מְזַבֵּחַ וּמַקְטִיר׃ 3:3
1Kin. 3:3 And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David, his father, but he was sacrificing and offering in the high places.
וַיֵּלֶךְ הַמֶּלֶךְ גִּבְעֹנָה לִזְבֹּחַ שָׁם כִּי הִיא הַבָּמָה הַגְּדוֹלָה אֶלֶף עֹלוֹת יַעֲלֶה שְׁלֹמֹה עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ הַהוּא׃ 3:4
1Kin. 3:4 And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there for it is the greatest high place. Solomon had offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.
בְּגִבְעוֹן נִרְאָה יְהֹוָה אֶל־שְׁלֹמֹה בַּחֲלוֹם הַלָּיְלָה וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים שְׁאַל מָה אֶתֶּן־לָךְ׃ 3:5
1Kin. 3:5 In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night, and God said, “Ask what I should give to you.”
וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁלֹמֹה אַתָּה עָשִׂיתָ עִם־עַבְדְּךָ דָוִד אָבִי חֶסֶד גָּדוֹל כַּאֲשֶׁר הָלַךְ לְפָנֶיךָ בֶּאֱמֶת וּבִצְדָקָה 3:6 וּבְיִשְׁרַת לֵבָב עִמָּךְ וַתִּשְׁמָר־לוֹ אֶת־הַחֶסֶד הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה וַתִּתֶּן־לוֹ בֵן יֹשֵׁב עַל־כִּסְאוֹ כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה׃
1Kin. 3:6 And Solomon said, “You maintained great kindness with Your servant, David, my father, as he walked before You in truth and in righteousness and in uprightness of heart with You. And You kept this great kindness for him and gave a son to him seated on his throne like this day.”
וְעַתָּה יְהוָה אֱלֹהָי אַתָּה הִמְלַכְתָּ אֶת־עַבְדְּךָ תַּחַת דָּוִד אָבִי וְאָנֹכִי נַעַר קָטֹן לֹא אֵדַע צֵאת וָבֹא׃ 3:7
1Kin. 3:7 “But now, O Lord, my God, You have made your servant king in place of David, my father, yet I am a young lad; I do not know to go out or come in.”
וְעַבְדְּךָ בְּתוֹךְ עַמְּךָ אֲשֶׁר בָּחָרְתָּ עַם־רָב אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יִמָּנֶה וְלֹא יִסָּפֵר מֵרֹב׃ 3:8
1Kin. 3:8 “And Your servant is in the midst of Your people, whom You have chosen, a great people, who cannot be counted and cannot be numbered for multitude.”
וְנָתַתָּ לְעַבְדְּךָ לֵב שֹׁמֵעַ לִשְׁפֹּט אֶת־עַמְּךָ לְהָבִין בֵּין־טוֹב לְרָע כִּי מִי יוּכַל לִשְׁפֹּט אֶת־עַמְּךָ הַכָּבֵד 3:9 הַזֶּה׃
1Kin. 3:9 “So give a heart of understanding to Your servant to judge Your people, discerning the range from good to evil, for who is able to judge Your people that is so great as this?”
וַיִּיטַב הַדָּבָר בְּעֵינֵי אֲדֹנָי כִּי שָׁאַל שְׁלֹמֹה אֶת־הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה׃ 3:10
1Kin. 3:10 And the request was good in the “eyes” of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֵלָיו יַעַן אֲשֶׁר שָׁאַלְתָּ אֶת־הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה וְלֹא־שָׁאַלְתָּ לְּךָ יָמִים רַבִּים וְלֹא־שָׁאַלְתָּ לְּךָ 3:11 עֹשֶׁר וְלֹא שָׁאַלְתָּ נֶפֶשׁ אֹיְבֶיךָ וְשָׁאַלְתָּ לְּךָ הָבִין לִשְׁמֹעַ מִשְׁפָּט׃
1Kin. 3:11 And God said to him, “Because that you have asked this request and not asked many days for yourself and you did not ask riches for yourself and you did not ask the lives of your enemies, but have asked discernment for yourself to understand justice,
הִנֵּה עָשִׂיתִי כִּדְבָרֶיךָ הִנֵּה נָתַתִּי לְךָ לֵב חָכָם וְנָבוֹן אֲשֶׁר כָּמוֹךָ לֹא־הָיָה לְפָנֶיךָ וְאַחֲרֶיךָ לֹא־יָקוּם 3:12 כָּמוֹךָ׃
1Kin. 3:12 behold, I have done according to your request. Lo, I have given a heart wise and discerning to you, such that there has not been like yours before you, and there shall not appear like yours after you.”
וְגַם אֲשֶׁר לֹא־שָׁאַלְתָּ נָתַתִּי לָךְ גַּם־עֹשֶׁר גַּם־כָּבוֹד אֲשֶׁר לֹא־הָיָה כָמוֹךָ אִישׁ בַּמְּלָכִים כָּל־יָמֶיךָ׃ 3:13
1Kin. 3:13 “And I have also given what you did not ask to you, both riches and honor, that there is not like you any among the kings all your days.”
וְאִם תֵּלֵךְ בִּדְרָכַי לִשְׁמֹר חֻקַּי וּמִצְוֺתַי כַּאֲשֶׁר הָלַךְ דָּוִיד אָבִיךָ וְהַאַרַכְתִּי אֶת־יָמֶיךָ׃ 3:14
1Kin. 3:14 “And if you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and My commandments, as David, your father, walked, then I will prolong your days.”
וַיִּקַץ שְׁלֹמֹה וְהִנֵּה חֲלוֹם וַיָּבוֹא יְרוּשָׁלִַם וַיַּעֲמֹד לִפְנֵי אֲרוֹן בְּרִית־אֲדֹנָי וַיַּעַל עֹלוֹת וַיַּעַשׂ שְׁלָמִים 3:15 וַיַּעַש 3:1 מִשְׁתֶּה לְכָל־עֲבָדָיו׃
1Kin. 3:15 Then Solomon awoke and beheld it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord and offered burnt offerings and prepared peace offerings and made a feast for all his servants.
Should I presume that Solomon related this dream to his scribe? Were I do to that, I would have to ignore the implication of v. 3:2 that this chapter was written after the Temple was erected, at least some years later. Perhaps I might imagine that Solomon’s dictation of events to one or more scribes took place on a regular basis, but were not made part of the official record until some time later. Still, I would then have to understand that additional information, such as that in v. 3:2, was inserted into the official record after the original transcription. What can I say to this? We have here a mystery that recurs throughout the bible.
אָז תָּבֹאנָה שְׁתַּיִם נָשִׁים זֹנוֹת אֶל־הַמֶּלֶךְ וַתַּעֲמֹדְנָה לְפָנָיו׃ 3:16
1Kin. 3:16 Then two women harlots came to the king and stood before him.
וַתֹּאמֶר הָאִשָּׁה הָאַחַת בִּי אֲדֹנִי אֲנִי וְהָאִשָּׁה הַזֹּאת יֹשְׁבֹת בְּבַיִת אֶחָד וָאֵלֵד עִמָּהּ בַּבָּיִת׃ 3:17
1Kin. 3:17 And one of the women said, “Pray, my lord, I and this woman live in one house, and I gave birth with her in the house.”
וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי לְלִדְתִּי וַתֵּלֶד גַּם־הָאִשָּׁה הַזֹּאת וַאֲנַחְנוּ יַחְדָּו אֵין־זָר אִתָּנוּ בַּבַּיִת זוּלָתִי 3:18 שְׁתַּיִם־אֲנַחְנוּ בַּבָּיִת׃
1Kin. 3:18 “And it was on the third day of my delivery that this woman also gave birth, and we were together. There was no stranger with us in the house; only we two were in the house.”
וַיָּמָת בֶּן־הָאִשָּׁה הַזֹּאת לָיְלָה אֲשֶׁר שָׁכְבָה עָלָיו׃ 3:19
1Kin. 3:19 “Then the son of this woman died at night because she lay on him.”
וַתָּקָם בְּתוֹךְ הַלַּיְלָה וַתִּקַּח אֶת־בְּנִי מֵאֶצְלִי וַאֲמָתְךָ יְשֵׁנָה וַתַּשְׁכִּיבֵהוּ בְּחֵיקָהּ וְאֶת־בְּנָהּ הַמֵּת 3:20
1Kin. 3:20 “And she rose in the middle of the night and took my son from my side as your handmaid slept and laid him on her bosom, and she laid on my bosom her son who was dead.”
וָאָקֻם בַּבֹּקֶר לְהֵינִיק אֶת־בְּנִי וְהִנֵּה־מֵת וָאֶתְבּוֹנֵן אֵלָיו בַּבֹּקֶר וְהִנֵּה לֹא־הָיָה בְנִי אֲשֶׁר יָלָדְתִּי׃ 3:21
1Kin. 3:21 “When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, then behold, it was dead. Then I attended to it in the morning, and beheld it was not my son whom I had borne.”
וַתֹּאמֶר הָאִשָּׁה הָאַחֶרֶת לֹא כִי בְּנִי הַחַי וּבְנֵךְ הַמֵּת וְזֹאת אֹמֶרֶת לֹא כִי בְּנֵךְ הַמֵּת וּבְנִי הֶחָי 3:22 וַתְּדַבֵּרְנָה לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ׃
1Kin. 3:22 And the other woman said, “No, but it is my son who is living, and your son who is dead.” And the first said, “No, but it is your son who is dead and my son who lives.” So they spoke before the king.
וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ זֹאת אֹמֶרֶת זֶה־בְּנִי הַחַי וּבְנֵךְ הַמֵּת וְזֹאת אֹמֶרֶת לֹא כִי בְּנֵךְ הַמֵּת וּבְנִי הֶחָי׃ 3:23
1Kin. 3:23 Then the king said, “This one says, ‘This is my son who lives and it is your son who is dead.’ And that one says, ‘No, but it is your son who is dead and it is my son who lives.’”
וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ קְחוּ לִי־חָרֶב וַיָּבִאוּ הַחֶרֶב לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ׃ 3:24
1Kin. 3:24 And the king said, “Get a sword for me.” And they brought the sword before the king.
וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ גִּזְרוּ אֶת־הַיֶּלֶד הַחַי לִשְׁנָיִם וּתְנוּ אֶת־הַחֲצִי לְאַחַת וְאֶת־הַחֲצִי לְאֶחָת׃ 3:25
1Kin. 3:25 And the king said, “Divide the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
וַתֹּאמֶר הָאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר־בְּנָהּ הַחַי אֶל־הַמֶּלֶךְ כִּי־נִכְמְרוּ רַחֲמֶיהָ עַל־בְּנָהּ וַתֹּאמֶר בִּי אֲדֹנִי תְּנוּ־לָהּ 3:26 אֶת־הַיָּלוּד הַחַי וְהָמֵת אַל־תְּמִיתֻהוּ וְזֹאת אֹמֶרֶת גַּם־לִי גַם־לָךְ לֹא יִהְיֶה גְּזֹרוּ׃
1Kin. 3:26 Then the woman whose son was living spoke to the king, for her womb contracted over her son, and said, “Please, my lord, give the living child to her, but surely do not slay it.” And the other one said: ”Neither for me nor for you will it be. Divide!”
וַיַּעַן הַמֶּלֶךְ וַיֹּאמֶר תְּנוּ־לָהּ אֶת־הַיָּלוּד הַחַי וְהָמֵת לֹא תְמִיתֻהוּ הִיא אִמּוֹ׃ 3:27
1Kin. 3:27 Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to her, and surely do not slay it. She is his mother.”
וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ כָל־יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת־הַמִּשְׁפָּט אֲשֶׁר שָׁפַט הַמֶּלֶךְ וַיִּרְאוּ מִפְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ כִּי רָאוּ כִּי־חָכְמַת אֱלֹהִים 3:28 בְּקִרְבּוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט׃
1Kin. 3:28 And all Israel heard the judgment that the king had made and they were in reverence in the presence of the king, for they realized that the wisdom of God was inside him to do justice.
It’s very interesting to me how the narrative of this chapter proceeds. First we are introduced to Solomon’s taking an Egyptian woman for his wife. Why the scribe chose to include it here is surely unknown. It is an isolated fact that could have been easily either omitted or postponed to a more appropriate place in the narrative of later chapters. It seems to be disconnected from the events of Chapter 2 and from the rest of this chapter. Odd!
Next, following this first verse, we encounter two oft-repeated and famous examples of Solomon’s great genius. Yet I have some misgivings about them. First of all, doesn’t it take someone already possessing wisdom to ask for it (or more of it?) from God? It seems to me that God must have already granted Solomon his wish before he expressed it in the dream. Then why relate the dream other than to impress?
The story about the two mothers also seems somewhat contrived to me. First of all, why would king Solomon entertain an argument between two harlots? Wouldn’t they be brought before a priest or judge instead of the king? If Solomon was hearing such cases on a regular basis, he would have had no time to be king. Recall Moses’ predicament in the wilderness before Jethro cam to enlighten him. For another thing, given that the king did see the harlots, I can envision other outcomes than the more or less favorable one depicted, even some that might have been more likely to have occurred, but might be less kind to Solomon’s image. The described outcome assumes that the mother of the dead boy was too stupid to anticipate Solomon’s ploy or to pick up on his subterfuge. Certainly that could have been the case and Solomon was able to discern her gullibility. But even an unwise mother in grief might be expected to be particularly alert at such a crucial moment. I would have expected her to quickly echo the first mother’s remark instead of the utterly stupid thing she did say. As far as I am concerned, the veracity and accuracy of this chapter are shrouded in uncertainty.
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